St Wilfrid’s Primary School
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During my first visit to the school I was led to a large green bin full of rotting fruit waste: it had been situated in the playground to encourage children and parents to recycle their fruit but it had been left for months and was bursting with decomposing material. The first question they asked me was whether I could help them get it composted.
Consequently, we set up two plastic compost bins on a grassy patch and working with the eco team began the process of adding twigs at to the bottom of each bin, to encourage aeration, and then began to add different layers of alternating green and brown materials. Over a period of four weeks myself and the member of school staff gradually emptied the rotten fruit in the green bin into the compost bins.
Meanwhile the eco team were inspired to collect other resources to compost. Firstly, a visit to the kitchen meant that the kitchen staff began to collect any raw food for composting, whilst the team also decided to collect any raw food waste from the plates.
Another resource which the kitchen saved for composting was egg shells whilst brown leaves and carefully ripped up brown cardboard boxes were also added into the mix to keep the compost dry enough.
The eco team were extremely busy running their school gardening club and doing local litter picks but when we suggested trying to stop even more waste from going into the black bins the team were keen to engage. We discussed various activities and decided to create and perform an assembly.
When investigating the bins the team discovered a huge amount of paper was being wasted and we wanted to encourage less waste through using both sides of the paper and to ensure more of it was recycled. MEEN provided the script for a whole-school assembly to help raise awareness of the eco teams plans whilst the team chose which parts they wanted to perform and started practicing.
The ‘play’, as it was later called, set out three key objectives. Firstly, for the Key Stage 1 pupils to compost any fruit waste; secondly, to ensure everyone in school was using both sides of the paper and then recycling it; and thirdly, the team launched a reuse/recycling scheme for electrical items. This third activity was launched at the assembly with a member of staff bringing in not one, or two, or three, old mobile phones, but four, which were ceremoniously opened the collection. The assembly/play was a great success: everyone laughed in all the right places, and the three key messages were reiterated by the head teacher who reported to the school that there was also a paper shortage and that the price of paper had rocketed.
During a feedback session a pupil stated, ‘I think the play was good because that spread awareness of what we’ve been doing across the whole school’ with the staff member commenting that, ‘Everybody has said they were proud of the play and the message we sent out’.
Whilst the team continued the work of recording what was being composted, encouraging paper reuse and collecting old electricals, MEEN was invited to attend the Manchester Metropolitan University’s Sustainability Festival. After some discussion the University staff were keen to include young people in the event and St Wilfrid’s was one of the schools we invited. The school is very close to the university and the school agreed the pupils could walk to the event.
The festival was a blend of speakers and different environmental stalls and MEEN asked the pupils to run our stall by engaging people in activities around composting and the carbon footprint of food. The team also had the opportunity to deliver a presentation to the attendees of the festival to share all the work they were doing at school.
The pupils did a fantastic job on the stall and in presenting their stories to an audience which included pupils from another school, academics, local councillors and a variety of environmental organisations. They also confidently fielded questions from the floor.
The pupils who attended the event not only enjoyed learning about sustainability from other stall holders they also commented in feedback that, ‘Going to the event was really good – it made me more confident because I had to speak to lots of people and take all the questions,’ with another pupil adding, ‘Me too, I’m much more confident from speaking to lots of people’.
They were also pleased to have made a connection to their local councillor who they wanted to invite into school.
Back at school the collection of broken or unused electrical items was going well.
In fact, 14.5kgs of unused electrical material was weighed in at the end of term. Whatever is broken has been taken to be recycled and whatever is still working has been reset so that it can be distributed to other people who might need it. The eco team were particularly keen that refugees should be the beneficiaries.
The activities taken to improve paper usage has been harder to measure, but nonetheless successful. As the team stated in the feedback session they were clear that, ‘We’ve more people using scrap paper’ whilst another pupil commented that, ‘We wrote our Eco code on re-used paper’. But there were bigger moves being made such as making sure, ‘the breakfast club are re-using paper from September’.
On the final day working with the eco team we also did the maths to work out how much food waste which would have gone into the black bin had been redirected into the compost bins. Having measured and recorded the waste going into the bucket as averaging 5kgs a day we worked out how many school days the team had composted since the beginning of the project. The final sum was to multiply 85 days by 5kgs and then to add the fruit waste from the green bin. The total came to a whopping .475 tonnes.
When asked what they had achieved one pupil replied that, ‘We have achieved glory!’ and although everybody laughed there was a sense that they had made a real difference in their school community, ‘By making our waste go down, especially by doing the composting’, but also in the wider community through litter picking.
In the feedback not everyone reported enjoying messing around in the compost bins but they were all keen to share the work they had done with other schools. One pupil even declared he had, ‘overcome stage fright’, stating, ‘I’ve found my confidence – I’d talk to anyone now’.
So, when I asked if they would be happy to talk to other schools about the work they had done, the answer was a resounding yes.
Our final activity took us back to the compost bins where we mixed in worm castings to act as a compost activator and enhancer, along with more crushed egg shells and another tub of composting material from the kitchen.
Then the team received the exciting news that they had been awarded Eco Schools Green Flag status with a distinction – a real acheivement highlighting all their hard work.
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